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A $20.8 million federal grant will help north St. Louis students achieve academic success

St. Louis Public Schools
Urban Strategies Inc. will use a $20.8 million federal grant to provide academic and social services support to students and families in struggling schools in the 63106 ZIP code of north St. Louis.

Five schools in north St. Louis will benefit from $20.8 million in federal funding from the Department of Education to help students gain academic success.

Urban Strategies Inc. will work with St. Louis Public Schools to implement the five-year Promise Neighborhoods grant at schools in the 63106 ZIP code — Jefferson, George Washington Carver, Columbia elementary schools, Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School and Vashon High School.

The 63106 Promise to Success Initiative aims to boost student achievement by providing access to early childhood education, social service support for families, in-school workforce development programs and academic coaching sessions for teachers.

Many students in north St. Louis do not have access to preschool programs, and they need family and community support from birth throughout high school to increase education achievement, said Timetria Murphy Watson, operations director for Urban Strategies.

“This opportunity is a start,” Murphy Watson said. “I don't believe that this is the end-all be-all, because our communities did not become this way overnight.”

Urban Strategies also will seek support from local and state agencies to help 1,400 students in the schools that participate. With the help of the community, the program can help students do better in school and improve their ability to better their circumstances, she said.

The grant also will allow students and their families to receive social services support, which includes external programs that provide college and career counseling.

“Investing in our youth puts them, and our entire city, on the path towards a brighter future,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a statement.

The program chose the five schools within the 63106 ZIP code because they had some of the lowest academic performance rates in Missouri.

Murphy Watson said the grant aims to help children who are at a greater educational risk and could use the help to stabilize their families and help them thrive.

Urban Strategies also will examine policies and systems that have created economic and educational disparities for families in historically disadvantaged communities, like those in the 63016 ZIP code.

All children should be achieving academic success to prepare for college or a career, said Esther Shin, president of Urban Strategies.

“I would love to see this as a pathway to really thinking about how we do this work, and what systems are currently challenging our families. And either rethinking through those, or dismantling them,” she said.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.